Being poached? Don’t sign without a contract review

When you’re poached for a new role, the future looks bright. It’s likely you’ll be feeling flattered and positive about the prospect.

However, being poached brings with it both opportunity and risk. It can be easy to jump headfirst into an exciting opportunity without properly assessing the conditions on offer. Here are some points to help you keep a level head while you make your decision.

The pros

Congratulations! If the company has approached you, it’s because they see you as a desirable candidate. This puts you in a strong bargaining position, perhaps stronger than candidates who are competing for a position that’s been put to the open market. To bring you over to their organisation, an employer may be willing to offer more favourable remuneration, perhaps including elaborate bonus schemes.

When you are being poached, take advantage of your desirability to the company that has approached you. You may have an opportunity to leverage your current remuneration and try to get more benefits than you’re currently on, or higher than the industry standard.

The risks of being poached

With that strong position comes some risks. These include:

  • Making decisions in a rush. In the excitement of being headhunted, decisions are often made quickly; you’ll want to make sure you’re not rushing into things.
  • Doing a handshake deal.Make sure you firm up the terms and conditions of the agreement in writing prior to your engagement.
  • Agreements are only verbal. The contract you sign needs to reflect the verbal offer.
  • Agreeing to lower conditions. Make sure you’re not signing up to anything that’s less advantageous than what you’re currently receiving from your employer.
  • Overlooking current contract restrictions. You may have a restraint of trade in place with your current employer, which prevents you from working for a competitor for a period of time.

In order to manage these risks, have someone look over the proposed agreement. You need to bring a dispassionate eye to the contract and make sure you’re not signing up to anything that was not discussed in your meetings. Getting this second opinion from someone who is not invested in the decision can also help you to understand the terms and conditions you can negotiate. They can give you objective advice about whether the contract offers a better deal for you.

It’s equally important to gain advice about your current employment agreement. Objective advice about any restraint of trade clauses can ensure you’re not leaving yourself open to a breach of contract claim.

Weighing up the decision

If you hadn’t considered changing jobs until being headhunted, you have a few decisions to wrap your head around.

Should you stay or should you go? Consider:

  • Do you think you’ll be more satisfied and happier if you move companies?
  • Will your remuneration be better than what you are currently earning?
  • Will the terms and conditions be better or more suited to your personal circumstances?
  • Are you close to accruing entitlements with your current employer, such as long service leave? If so, it might be worth waiting a little longer before departing.

If the new employer is not offering better remuneration or benefits, you should leverage your desirability as a candidate and negotiate to get a better deal. Alternatively, you can approach your current employer for an increase to your remuneration or a contract negotiation – however, only you can judge whether this move will be seen in a positive light or put you in a vulnerable position of potentially being exited from the company.

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Patrick Turner

Maurice Blackburn Brisbane
Patrick Turner is an employment and industrial Associate working in Maurice Blackburn’s Brisbane office, which is listed by the highly respected Doyle's Guide to the Australian Legal Profession as one of two top tier law firms for employees in Queensland. In 2017, Patrick was the ...

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